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Men’s Tennis: Irish win Big East title in Bayliss’ final season

| Monday, April 22, 2013

 

On a day of lasts, No. 28 Notre Dame defeated No. 50 Louisville, 4-0, at the Eck Pavilion to claim the 2013 Big East Championship.

Winning the Big East title this year was particularly meaningful for Notre Dame (19-7), as Irish coach Bobby Bayliss will retire after this season and Notre Dame will move to the ACC. The victory also came over the Cardinals (15-12), who won the 2012 Big East championship and took down the Irish two years ago in the final.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Irish senior Blas Moros said. “We’ve lost a couple of heartbreakers to Louisville. They’re probably our biggest rival and to beat them in the final just makes that much sweeter.”

The Irish rolled through St. John’s and Marquette on Friday and Saturday, respectively, before taking the Big East crown Sunday. The championship represents Notre Dame’s ninth Big East conference title but the first championship for the current Irish roster. 

While the team had plenty of motivation heading into the tournament, knowing it was Bayliss’s last season spurred them on even more, Irish junior Ryan Bandy said.

“I knew today when I came out that obviously I wanted to win it for our seniors, win it for our team,” Bandy said. “But I had that extra edge, that extra pressure because I wanted to get it for [coach Bayliss].”

The Irish started the championship match off strong, controlling all three doubles matches from the onset with a relatively new doubles lineup. Eventually, the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles pairings clinched the doubles point with 8-4 and 8-2 victories, respectively, while No. 3 doubles held a commanding 7-2 lead. 

“We’ve played two matches in which we were absolutely phenomenal in doubles. One was against Boise State, … and then this one,” Bayliss said. “I thought we played well on all three courts. It was rewarding to see.”

Off to a 1-0 lead, Bandy captured the first singles point for the Irish with a 6-3, 6-1, victory at No. 6 singles. Irish junior Greg Andrews and freshman Quentin Monaghan soon followed Bandy, winning their matches at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively.

“Our guys have put in the work day in and day out,” Moros said. “Our guys are confident and playing really well.”

Andrews earned the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award, going 2-0 in singles and 1-0 in doubles in the tournament. The co-captain utilized his big forehand and powerful serve to defeat No. 65 Cardinals sophomore Sebastian Stiefelmeyer in the final, 6-3, 7-5.

“Greg was fantastic,” Bayliss said. “Sebastian Stiefelmeyer is a class act. He handled himself wonderfully and that was two terrific young men going to war on the first court.”

To get to the finals, Notre Dame swept St. John’s, 4-0, Friday. The Irish then defeated the Golden Eagles, 4-1, Saturday, dropping their only match of the tournament at No. 4 singles. With the three victories, the Irish extend their winning streak to nine matches. The last time the team won nine straight was 2007, when it also advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.

The Big East championship title also earns the Irish an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The opening round is set for the weekend of May 10, and Notre Dame’s opponent will be announced sometime next week.

“I think we’ve just got to keep working hard,” Bandy said. “Obviously, it’s awesome to win the Big East, but we still have some business to take care of. We need to just come out these next two weeks and work hard, and I think we’ll put ourselves in a good position to play well in NCAA tournament.”

Contact Peter Steiner at psteiner@nd.edu